Monday, 4 October 2010
Wearing the Badge of our Faith
Archbishop Nichols, of Westminster, has encouraged Catholics to witness to their faith in small but significant ways: for example, by saying “God bless you” or by making the Sign of the Cross in public. These may seem like little things, but they are important, particularly in the social and legislative climate of our country these days.
I have a beautiful lapel pin, which I bought when I joined the Latin Mass Society of England and Wales. It shows their logo, which I have pasted at the head of this post. The chasuble is red, and everything else is white, with all the outlines, and the Cross, in gold. In the light of Archbishop Nichols’s exhortation, I will try to make sure that I wear the badge on my coat as a regular thing. It could be a real conversation piece, and it is full of teaching possibilities.
Having said that, of course, the question arises: am I up to the task of dealing with the questions and challenges - to say nothing of anything more adversarial - which may be directed at me when those I meet realise I am a Catholic? Those of us who may be unfamiliar with the work of presenting or defending our faith, or who may be rusty in these skills, may be rather daunted at the prospect of explaining it. On a practical note, I think it’s important to gain confidence, and not to feel one must waffle when responding to enquirers. It’s perfectly all right to admit that we can’t do justice to this or that question, but that we will try to find out all we can for the next occasion.
There is a major and urgent need to plug the gaps in Catholics’ knowledge of the Faith. And there is also the problem that the poor catechesis many people have received will result in some eccentric versions (no, I’m beating about the bush here; we all know I mean false versions) of our faith finding their way into the unsuspecting ears of enquirers.
Most glaringly, there is that all-excusing misrepresentation of the idea of “following one’s conscience”, which seems to have become fixed in the minds of so many Catholics. The more knowledgeable kind of non-Catholic will not be at all impressed if a Catholic tells him that “We don’t have to follow the Church’s teachings; we can follow our own consciences and decide for ourselves”.
There is another thing to consider. While allowing that we are all sinners, and without beating myself up about it, I’m going to have to do my best to practise the virtues, and to be seen to be trying to do so. Otherwise the behaviour that is seen won’t match the words that are heard, or the Catholic symbols that are worn. There have been some glaring examples of this in the media recently. We will be held to very high standards.
To sum up: the Archbishop’s words, which are ostensibly quite simple and restricted, are really full of potential; but they must be built on. If each of us, and our bishops and clergy, make the effort, it will be to the intellectual and spiritual benefit of all concerned.